Recognizing America’s deep problems allows radical change for the better
Glenn Ellmers, a highly credentialed research fellow at the conservative Claremont Institute, is trying to move conservative intellectuals from constantly ruminating about the problems with the American system to being more proactive about pushing workable solutions. This means recognizing that some problems are intractable and that only an ideological counter-revolution will lead to change.
In Conservatism is no Longer Enough, Ellmers began the work of convincing people about the need for action, not navel-gazing. Possibly in response to pushback to that article, Ellmers published Hard Truths and Radical Solutions, in which he essentially doubles down, warning, “Only by confronting the most uncomfortable truths about our lost republican heritage will we summon the necessary courage and strength to fight for its recovery.”
Ellmers asserts with good evidence that the constitutional republic is moribund—it “no longer exists”—and that the rot has produced a political environment that is now unrelated to long-standing belief in a government of, by, and for the people. What remains is an elite socialist autocracy. I would add that Ellmers ignores that the American people are no longer committed to a constitutional republic operating with the consent and will of a properly informed citizenry that knows about the essentials of good representative politics. Americans are drifting left, giving up vigorous citizenship, and becoming sheeple.
Certainly, Ellmers is correct to say that elections no longer reflect the will of some people. However, he ignores how socialist/Marxist ideas have gradually and effectively infiltrated America, producing an ideological shift that turned Americans into their worst enemies, shackled by complacency and compliance. Half the American electorate has been ideologically reset to accept an oligarch and elite-dominated socialist polis and condemn traditional conservative Americans as enemies of the new woke progressivism.
Bureaucrat control of the permanent government, says Ellmers, has been persistent and perpetual for at least a century, continuously moving left toward statism and autocracy. Elected officials realize this and participate in the state expansion because they benefit as participants in the elite ruling class.
The great disruption in the hegemony of the oligarchs was the Trump election in 2016. In reaction, the ruling class aggressively prevented any more “unacceptable” elections, leaving only what Ellmers properly labels “manufactured consent.” While we can prove fraud (he cites Mollie Hemingway and Dan Greenfield favorably in this regard), we need more than a desire to return to the founding principles and what Ellmers says is a “nostalgic fiction today—especially the idea of checks and balances based on federalism and the separation of powers.”
The Federalist founding concepts are irrelevant in an autocracy that ignores the separation of powers and shared federal/state authority and an administrative state that actively colludes with the federal security apparatus to enforce the regime’s authority. Thus, Ellmers writes, fascism has arrived in America. The evolution to fascism is natural for a plutarchy joined to an autocracy. Ellmers is correct. Indeed, Madison rightly predicted that the key to good self-governance is a moral populace and warned, “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”
Ellmers asserts that neither Trump nor DeSantis had or have adequate resources or the wherewithal to restore the constitutional republic because of the power inherent in the deep state/media alliance. He even questions whether history’s greatest political executives could have survived a current deep-state attack amplified by the lapdog media.
Exhibit One is the elaborate, comprehensive, continuing, and debilitating attacks on Trump because he took up the cause of citizens against the ruling “experts.” Trump exposed the media and the deep state but underestimated the administrative state’s power and willingness to act. His impact was short and inspirational but doomed. He had no allies and support of substance. It’s not clear, writes Ellmers, that another person (he cites DeSantis) could do better.
I disagree, however, with Dr. Ellmers's assertion that, to bring the bureaucracy to heel and restore constitutional government, the president would require large House and Senate majorities, all committed to a political street fight for reform—something that might well lead to a constitutional crisis. The key is not large majorities, but commitment and courage, with working majorities made up of conservatives with integrity.
Who will saddle up? Self-government habits have atrophied, and no one can say they will be rehabilitated. Socialist infiltration continues apace, and the schools are an indoctrination program that proves the old communist claim that, if they have the children, they will take the society. It remains to be seen if Americans and their political leaders will have the ability or will—ever—to disassemble the administrative state and return to self-government.
Ellmers is right when he says, “By carrying on with retail politics and accepting the current situation as normal, people on the Right are now legitimizing and strengthening their enemies.” He is right to point out that there is enough of a veneer of self-government that many will hesitate to act, even if they have “dissatisfactions and justified fears.” He concludes that we should not “go tit-for-tat with the Democrats” on election cheating because ends don’t justify illegal means.
Ultimately, Ellmers asserts that the high moral ground around which we must rally is defined by “natural rights derived from natural law.” Only in that way can we save the Republic we love.
John Dale Dunn is a retired emergency physician and inactive attorney